Freelance photographers have been ordered to pay thousands of pounds to Getty Images after the photo giant made an error in its royalty rates.
One photographer who contacted Press Gazette has been told they need to repay £10,000, and others also owe thousands.
In 2007, Getty paid $202m for photo agency Media Vast, which specialised in celebrity pictures.
When Getty transferred Media Vast’s freelance contracts, it made an error in some cases – awarding photographers a higher percentage of their photos’ sales revenue.
After Getty was alerted, it wrote to the affected photographers, informing them the money would be repaid at a rate of 50 per cent of freelances’ future fees – on top of Getty’s existing cut.
After complaints, the repayment rate was changed to 10 per cent of future fees. Photographers have also been told they can pay off their debt in “in a lump sum or at a higher monthly percentage rate”.
But photographers are still angry. One told Press Gazette: “It’s very unpleasant. They made a mistake. For a company like that, I can’t imagine it’s a big amount.
“They never forewarned us. We were not called as soon as the error was detected to talk about it.
“They haven’t spoken to us, or given us the chance to leave and take our pictures to another agency.”
Another said: “This was Getty’s error, the money has been paid, so why should they be able to reclaim it now? I can’t believe it’s legal.”
There was also anger that the money would be repaid in dollars. A year ago, $10,000 was worth around £5,000. Now, it is worth about £7,100.
A Getty Images spokeswoman said an “error” was made in transferring the contracts, but added the mistake only affected five per cent of Media Vast freelances.
She said: “We had put in the wrong royalty rates. It was an error.
“We have put in an overpayment recoupment schedule to correct that error, in a way that makes as little impact as possible.
“It doesn’t impact the majority of Media Vast contributors.”
She added the Media Vast rate was the same as the Getty Images rate.